Wastewater at the COVID-19 coal mine was a canary for Bay Area health officials. A month ago he pointed to rapidly rising virus levels in sewer systems as a harbinger of an increase in omicron-fueled matter. Wastewater tests now show that virus levels have started to subside.
With modeling at the University of Washington, which has proven spot-on, about the trajectory of the pandemic and the experiences of other states and countries, it suggests that the omicron wave is crumbling and about to come down in Northern California and across the country. This is an optimistic sign for a public that is quite tired of the virus and all the restrictions it brings to their daily lives.
Michael Balliett, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, who oversees wastewater monitoring in partnership with Stanford University, said, “We are currently seeing some trends that suggest a leveling or even a downward trend.” Might be possible.”
Wastewater monitoring systems in other parts of the country are showing similar hopeful signs. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority reported Tuesday that virus levels in Boston area sewers had fallen to levels recorded on December 30 — still higher than before this winter, but nearly half of peak levels in the first week of January. were found in
Alexandria Boehm, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University who is monitoring wastewater levels for several other counties including San Mateo, Modesto, San Francisco and Merced, said she is seeing similar extreme trends in Sacramento. Is.
Based on past winter experience and the trajectory of Omicron’s outbreak overseas, health experts expect this winter’s surge to peak and subside quickly. In the United Kingdom, government data shows new COVID-19 daily cases fell to nearly 140,000 in the past week, after rising to more than 200,000 earlier this month. Hospital admissions have also started decreasing.
South Africa, where the Omicron variant first surfaced in November, has already seen a peak and decline in cases.
The University of Washington’s influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model predicts by Jan. 8 that the current wave of daily U.S. cases will reach nearly 1.2 million by Jan. 19 and begin to decrease as quickly as it increases – which It was a meteorite.
According to another IHME measure of estimated infections, which includes those not confirmed and reported through testing, the latest US surge has already reached 6.2 million on January 6. The daily US hospital count is projected to peak at 273,000 on January 25 and the daily COVID-19 death toll at 1,930 on January 24.
For California, the IHME model predicts that daily cases will reach 135,750 by January 24, daily hospitalizations will rise to 31,510 by January 30, and daily COVID-19 deaths will top 150 by February 1. It already says estimated daily infections. Reached 758,500 on 11 January.
The model will be updated again on Friday, but Ali Moqdad, a professor of health metrics science at the University of Washington in Seattle, said he doesn’t expect the estimates to change much.
California tends to peak later than the rest of the country because the spread of the virus has been slowed by more widespread use of face masks and higher vaccination rates, Mokdad said. But the University of Washington model projects that more than half of the US population will have been infected with the Omicron variant in the next six weeks. Mokdad said it is important for people to wear high-quality masks and have up-to-date vaccinations because omicrons are so contagious and many of those who are infected do not have symptoms.
The variant’s ability to infect people — even those who have been vaccinated and masked — is evident in numbers compiled by the California Department of Public Health. California health data shows an average of daily cases reaching 79,610 as of Thursday, with 12,927 hospitalizations across the state and an average of 46 daily deaths from the virus. This is up from the 36,282 average daily cases, 8,671 statewide hospitalizations and 44 average daily deaths a week ago.
But California Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Galli was optimistic on Wednesday that the current Omicron attack will result in fewer hospitalizations and deaths than last winter’s COVID surge due to the state’s high vaccination rate and the number of people recovering from previous infections. . He said the pandemic would enter a more manageable phase.
“Our hope is that as we get over the next few weeks… that our baseline immunity to the COVID-19 virus and its variants that we have already seen and that is yet to come, will be able to prevent such massive devastation. will be strong enough. People’s health, health care delivery system, and we begin to move towards a new normal,” Ghali said.
Hope that the end of the current boom is near is evident in the short-term nature of recently imposed restrictions, such as Sonoma County’s ban on large gatherings and universities such as San Jose State beginning new terms with online classes, all Which is going to end in a month.
Nevertheless, some uncertainty remains. Boehm said that since unprecedented levels of virus levels in Santa Clara County wastewater last month “levels have leveled off or in some cases went down,” there is still cause for concern:
“In the last boom, we had flattened out a little bit before the actual downturn,” Boehm said. “We can’t be sure what the future holds for this boom. New data comes in daily, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on it.”
The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.